The Higher Education Innovation Summit Draws Innovators to the University of Minnesota Rochester

July 17, 2018
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The Higher Education Innovation Summit, hosted by the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR), gathered more than 100 professionals from colleges and universities around the United States, Canada, and Norway for three days in downtown Rochester. Connecting creative educators and researchers, the Summit sought to transform higher education through innovations that enhance student learning.

Attendees had the option of attending 37 sessions over the three days where they were able to ask, “What works in higher education?”; “How do we know?”; and, “How might we collaborate with one another to advance innovations that make a measurable difference?”

“This idea of inspiring transformation in higher education is part of University of Minnesota Rochester’s vision,” said Chancellor Dr. Lori Carrell. “It is an honor to convene the best and brightest as we pursue new and innovative ways to solve complex challenges.”

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, gave the keynote speech on the final of the three-day summit titled, “American Higher Education at the Crossroads: Leadership and Inclusive Excellence.” His research and publications focus on science and math education with an emphasis on minority participation and performance. Dr. Hrabowski was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME in 2012 and one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report (2008). University of Maryland, Baltimore has been recognized as a model for inclusive excellence by publications such as U.S. News.

In his keynote, Dr. Hrabowski encouraged educators to establish and maintain high standards in quality. He shared that quality should not only mean rigor and standards in education, but also quality in the support that is given to students. Dr. Hrabowski encouraged educators to consider what it is they do to ensure students attending their institutions have what they need to attain the level of quality and expectations desired.

The Summit provided an opportunity to introduce the University of Minnesota Rochester to other higher educational institutions.

Among the sessions, UMR’s own student success coaches presented “The Student Success Coach and the Art of Coaching” where they touched on the University’s unique approach to how students are guided and advised throughout their years on campus.

“Usually, the audience for an event like this is very concise -- those who are advisors in health professions,” said Jennifer Hooke, a UMR success coach who presented at two sessions. “The summit was innovative in that it brought together so many people from higher education who have a vested interest in this field.”

Teresa Henderson Vasquez, a faculty member at UMR’s Center for Learning Innovation also attended and presented at the summit. “I found the summit very helpful because it was a supportive, collaborative, non-competitive environment where a lot of cross-disciplinary sharing was available,” said Henderson Vasquez. “Attendees were from different institutions, departments and stages of their careers, but their priorities were to be collaborative, student-focused and take risks when they are supported by evidence. The Higher Education Innovation Summit was vastly different than any other conference because of this.”

Odd Rune Stalheim, a doctoral candidate at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, traveled from Norway to present a session, “‘Speed Practice’ and ‘Wood Pieces’ - Student Revolts Against a Distant Profession.” His presentation took a closer look at architectural and nursing students’ involvement in student-driven innovations in Norway who aimed to establish a new service or improve a current service. One key takeaway from his research is the need for different and creative arenas for learning where students can and should experience some unrest and uncontrollable situations.

“We need to push higher education to listen to students who take on the initiative of doing things themselves,” Stalheim said. “We need to start reorganizing and thinking differently about how we learn. Not everyone learns from sitting in a classroom for eight hours. Involve the students.”

“The emphasis on listening to student voice was not new,” said Chancellor Carrell, “but it helped to reinforce that it must be intentionally part of what we do going forward for me as a chancellor, and for faculty and staff. Student voice is imperative.”

Plans are underway to host the Higher Education Innovation Summit again in 2020.